My Granite Reminder
Like a lot of writers, I keep a stone on my desk to use as a paperweight. But mine has a special meaning to me because it’s a chunk of granite from one of the quarries my grandfather and great-grandfather worked, and every time I look at it, I’m reminded of how far the Orcutts have come.
Last summer, while working on a story that takes place off the coast of Maine, I spent some time on the island my family comes from: Vinalhaven.
Tooling around the island in a friend’s pickup truck, I visited the places my ancestors had lived and worked—especially the granite quarries.In the early 1900s, granite from Vinalhaven was used for a lot of important buildings in the Northeast, including the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. My great-grandfather was part of the small crew that cut and shaped the columns for that impressive structure.
My grandfather also cut granite for buildings, but he did something else that I find just as impressive, and that’s cutting paving block. In those days, many of the streets in Boston and New York were still cobblestone, which meant that somebody had to cut those uniform-sized blocks.
According to my uncle Harris, my grandfather made 2 cents for each block. “This was during the Depression you see,” Harris said. “He’d bring home forty, fifty dollars a week. Do the math. That’s two thousand to twenty-five hundred stones a week. And if they weren’t perfect, he didn’t get paid.”
Where am I going with this entry, you ask? What’s my point?
My point is this:
Every time I sit down at my computer and get to use my brain to make a living, I pick up my granite paperweight, feel its roughness and its heft, and think about the hard work my ancestors did that enabled me to be where I am today. Because they worked their asses off cutting stone, I’m able to indulge in creative pursuits. I like to think they’d want this, that they’d want me to do what I loved instead of just working to survive.
I’m incredibly proud of them and grateful for the sacrifices they made.
The success I seek with my writing isn’t just for myself.
It’s for them.